We live in the world of sleep deprived people.
The sleep science has been booming with new and exciting data over the past few decades. Once recording brain waves during sleep became possible, we learned that there is slow wave sleep and REM sleep. Each one is very important to our wellbeing. During REM sleep, we experience dreams and our brain neurons are working hard at data clean up and storage. Lack of this type of sleep will result in impaired memory and concentration as well as decreased thinking capacity.
The slow wave sleep, is the dreamless “shut down” mode, which allows your body to undergo all the necessary housekeeping and maintenance. Vital hormones are produced during this time and molecules, and the buildup of toxic byproducts is eliminated on the cellular level. The mechanisms that govern our sleep are so complicated and enigmatic, that modern science still is only glimpsing into it, but even that glimpse is enough to convince us that the value of sleep is absolutely crucial to our well-being.
The role of sleep in medical illness.
Recent breakthrough in treatment of fibromyalgia, a condition associated with chronic pain, depression and severe fatigue, revealed that the disease had its root in lack of slow wave sleep. So even when the fibromyalgia patient sleeps more than eight or nine hours per day, their brain for a number of reasons spends less in the slow wave sleep than necessary. Among many other things, this results in decreased production of the very important neurotransmitter serotonin and decreased production of human growth hormone. The result is depressed mood, low energy and in fibromyalgia patients also causes increased sensitivity to pain. While not everyone is genetically predisposed to develop fibromyalgia, most people will feel the diminished lack of sleep to certain degree.
So how much sleep do you really need?
There are some people who require less sleep than others, usually due to their ability to go through sleep cycles with higher efficiency than others. Most people, however do require a minimum or seven or eight hours to complete the required amount of sleep cycles. If you always wake up to the alarm clock, you are probably interrupting one cycle in the middle; if you have trained yourself to wake up at certain time on your own then your then your brain will adjust to complete the cycle on time.